Do you think Christian records will ever be accepted in the pop field?
It's according to what you mean by Christian records. I don't think the pop market will ever accept the cultural trappings which
so often accompany contemporary Christian messages. Here's George Gallup running around the country telling us that well
over half of all Americans are "born again." Well then, why don't Christian records share well over half the sales figures with
other records? I think there are fewer real Christians than the pollsters have
realized. So then we have the opposite reactions by those in the Christian market, namely, "Oh, the Devil owns this wicked world and, therefore, the record business, and so it
is no wonder they run and hide from us when we try to bring them the Gospel message!" So then, it's comfortable to pass the buck
to Satan and turn your back. I don't think an honest attempt has been made yet by large numbers of Christians with access to
the media, to be truthful in their messages, yet without cultural additions from Christian circles. You cannot expect someone
who does not know or presently care if God exists to understand what "Hallelujah" means to you and your Bible study
group. I think the truth can still be communicated after being stripped of unnecessary cultural overtones.
How can Christians become aware of the "Secular" thought forms around them?
That's a good question. How can you explain your frame of reference to somebody if they will only view it through their frame
of reference? How can you try to explain a foreign culture to somebody who will probably never understand another
culture, primarily due to the fact that he thinks he understands the other culture already? He has a defined niche for it in his
present frame of reference and any new information is simply guided to the proper pigeonholes, right beside other particulars which
are thought to be familiar and understood by him. Why is it so hard to surprise someone with reality? One should be at
times surprised to see it with objective eyes, or another pair than one's own. How can you explain
color to a blind man, especially if he already thinks that he understands the concept of
color? How can you give him sight, surprise him, confront him with the way things are outside his world?
I think it is desirable to be able to see things in more than one way, from
more than one vantage point. That is the purpose I think education should be capable of fulfilling, but how do you break down
walls gently and properly? You can't tell someone that the world they see is not the real world, after they've believed it
for many years. How do you strive to take somebody's mind on a trip so real that they others' thoughts from the inside? It
takes a lot of creativity to do that, but that is what must be done if whole people are to be the products of the educational
process, and I don't just mean in the school system; our education comes as much from those around us as it does from books and teachers.
You've spoken a good bit about Contemporary media influence on the popular level in society. Do you think the death of Marshall McLuhan will have any significant effect on thought forms in media circles?
Probably not, on the popular level. McLuhan was more of an observer than a
consultant anyway, and any effect he had on the media themselves was probably rather indirect. Of course his most famous observation, "the
medium is the message" has turned out to be relatively true, I think, but with exceptions. By that he meant that the effect of
the nature of the media themselves is more significant than the effect of any content which the media have been used to
convey. Anything you put on television, for example, loses much of its impact by the fact that it's just something else on television.
A newspaper is always the same number of pages whether there's any news or not. I think Christians have been prey to
this phenomenon on broadcasting Christian shows that look like every other show. The message can become just one more of
the myriad of opinions thrown at us by the electronic toys we've surrounded ourselves with, with fillers to make it standard broadcast length.
You make phonograph records. In considering media as environments, according to McLuhan, couldn't phonograph records also be viewed as prisons for the content they are wished to convey?
Yes; I think, however, the question of whether the content of any medium is
eligible for parole to the thinker is still a valid one. One might also say that since familiarity breeds contempt, the cumulative effect of
the content of a recording is lost by its repeated playback. That is a very real danger, but to the willing, content can still be gotten,
even from well-worn discs. The same is true of oft-repeated phrases, and the battle is not entirely new.
How do you think media influences people?
I agree with McLuhan that those of us born in the latter half of this century are influenced to a higher degree than we
may realize by the media bombardment we have grown so accustomed to. Man made the media, and now they are making him,
telling him what he is. Media can destroy a culture by encouraging popular or expected feedback patterns instead of true, and heartfelt
ones. The real us can be lost in the us media have given us.
I read a book by an anthropologist
who noted the demise of Eskimo art in in Northern Canada. It seems some art dealers discovered genuine Eskimo art pieces and saw
them as marketable. But in the meantime, they encourage the Eskimos to modify the art, so it would be more like
most people's preconceived notions of Eskimo art. The product the Eskimos ended up turning out had little resemblance to their
original folk-art, but the public never knew that. The next generation of Eskimo artists had never seen the original art, and each
artist producing works to the specifications of the art dealers thought he was making genuine original Eskimo art. So, they had been
told who they were, and they had believed it. Something irreplaceable was lost in the process.
Likewise, media would encourage a saleable culture to dominate a real one, and the next generation's self-identity would be molded
in part by it. If you tell people what they are long enough, pretty soon they will start to believe it. Their children will grow up never knowing they are not what they would have been without the outside influence. This
is what media have done in answer to the question, "what is man?" We're only now
starting to realize it's effects on ourselves. And however noble the original intention, this is exactly what has happened as
well with Christian media. We have told ourselves popular and saleable ideas about what Christians are, and we have believed what
we told ourselves. Now, many people are financially involved, so it is harder and harder to break away and seek out what we
really are. But I think it is time more of us were concerned with reality, and not let the nature of media and public opinion manipulate
us any longer. But we have to keep our eyes open. We have to find out what manner of creature we are, and ignore popular ideas
and the things we've told ourselves about ourselves over the years. We have to fight to keep the sociological dominoes from sweeping us
into their falling pattern, whether the pressure is from secular society or Christian society. We have to learn to think for ourselves.
Do you think hype can occur in the promotion of "Christian" products?
Yes, I do. What is hype? It's just finding out what you think the most people
want and then saying it in an exciting way that you have something that meets all those criteria. In the secular fields, you can do
it with sex, sales figures, anything. In the Christian field, you can do it that way too, or even worse, you can do it with
conformity and orthodoxy. You can do it with promises of spirituality. It can be so unreal, but people will go for it. It sickens me at times. I
don't want the next generation thinking this is normal. We hear so much hype, and not enough truth any more. This is another
sad side effect of the media on our Christian endeavors. Is it possible to inform a
public of a product using the truth and not hype, or will the nature of promotion itself,
having been established by secular media, reduce even a truthful statement about a "product" to a form of hype? We have all been told
to play Wizard of Oz for so long, that pretty soon, no one will know how to look behind the curtain.
( New Christian Music, Vol. 3 No. 5, 1984? )
INTERVIEWS & ARTICLES